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Don't mess with Marion County

Staff writer

Despite an impassioned appeal from Marion resident Wayne Johnston, the edict from the county remained the same: Clean up your mess, or else.

Johnston’s property at 20 Prairie Lane at Marion County Lake has been the target of complaints from area residents, and the county imposed a deadline of Oct. 31 upon Johnston to clean up his property.

If the piles of scrap materials aren’t disposed of by Oct. 31, the county will hand the task over to the state, which is likely to throw everything away indiscriminately.

Johnston was at Tuesday’s commission meeting seeking extension or removal of the deadline, but despite showing a willingness to work with Johnston, the commission remained firm.

Tonya Richards, director of Marion County’s planning and zoning department, had fielded the complaints about his property. Richards showed pictures of Johnston’s property to the county commission, saying the mess was visible from the road, which Johnston denied.

“You can’t even see that from the road,” he said.

“But you can because we get complaints about it,” Richards retorted. “My office gets people from the county lake who call….”

“Complaints for what?” Johnston interrupted.

“That your property is a nuisance and that you’re harboring rodents, and that you have rats and skunks and all kinds of areas for pests to get into,” Richards said.

“There ain’t nothin’ there,” Johnston replied.

Commissioner Randy Dallke said he’d be willing to work with Johnston, but that unless there was a concrete plan with progress benchmarks, he would not vote to extend the deadline or remove it.

“Ninety-nine people out of a hundred says my place looks fine,” Johnston said. “It’s just one person that can’t mind their own damn business.”

“Oh, there’s more than one,” commissioner Dan Holub said.

“Wayne, I’ve been out there longer than you have, I’ve been out there 30 years now, and I guarantee you if you find one out of a hundred that says it looks OK, you’d be lucky,” Dallke added.

Johnston said he is in the process of cleaning the mess, but that he can’t work on it as much as he’d prefer because of his old age.

“I’m only good for two or three hours a day because I’m shot,” he said. “My back’s gone, my rotary cuffs are shot. I enjoy doing it. I don’t know nothin’ but work.

“Nobody wants it done more than I do.”

The commissioners initially talked about a plan to install a privacy fence, behind which Johnston could have his collection of scrap. Richards presented Johnston’s proposal as though he had asked for a privacy fence, but Johnston later recanted his stance on the idea.

“I won’t put up no fence because you come down the road and see my backyard, I enjoy seeing it when I come home,” he said. “It’s something I worked for all my life.”

“Wayne, we don’t go out looking, it’s the public coming to us,” Holub said. “We don’t go out making judgment calls, we’re hearing from people. They’re talking, and we owe it to them to take care of business.”

In other business:

  • Commissioners agreed to move forward on a proposal to relocate 125th Rd. in Doyle township northeast of Florence. The road runs across the property of Warren Harshman, whose construction company operates the quarry there. Harshman intends to privately build and maintain the road a half mile north of its current location but leave it available for public use. Harshman wants to expand the quarry a half mile northward. The proposal will be taken to County Attorney Susan Robson, who will ensure the proposal is statutorily compliant.
  • The commission meeting took a 10-minute recess to assess damage caused by a burst pipe at Marion County EMS. The flood caused mild damage to some ambulance records, but they were said to be salvageable.
  • John Hefley of The Lumberyard in Hillsboro sent the county a sample window that he could fit into the courthouse. Commissioners expressed concerns over compliance with National Register of Historic Places standards, and the price thereof. Hefley reportedly wants to make a bid to replace the windows.

Last modified Oct. 9, 2014

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